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Monday, January 25, 1999 Published at 09:09 GMT


Iraq storms out of Arab talks

Kuwaiti check-point: Iraq still poses a threat

Attempts to forge a common Arab position on the Iraq crisis failed when the Iraqi delegation walked out of Arab League talks in protest at the contents of the final statement.

"The final resolution did not comply with any of the Iraqi demands," a delegate said.

The move came as Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo debated a draft statement insisting Iraq recognise Kuwait and comply with United Nations resolutions as a prelude to any sanctions relief.


[ image: Mohammed al-Sahaf said the talks were biased]
Mohammed al-Sahaf said the talks were biased
Baghdad had demanded that the 18 Arab League foreign ministers bypass the UN and lift sanctions unilaterally. It also called for condemnation of the bombings by US and UK warplanes last December.

Iraq's Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said the meeting was biased against his country and could give the US and Britain cause for renewed air strikes.

"There were unbalanced ideas and it was clear to us that there was US pressure on the meeting, which led to a negative effect," he added.

"We cannot accept such a meeting which again conspired against Iraq and gave the US and Britain the pretext for another attack."

The walkout came as American warplanes again raided military installations in northern Iraq.

Olive branch

Baghdad had earlier tried to apply diplomatic pressure by offering to apologise for "mistakes" if other Arab states did the same. Kuwait rejected the proposal soon after it was made.


[ image: Tariq Aziz: Brothers can say sorry]
Tariq Aziz: Brothers can say sorry
The offer came in an interview with Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar. Mr Aziz said it was not shameful to say sorry between brothers, and the proposal could open a new page in inter-Arab relations.

The offer indicated a shift of policy by Iraq, which only a week ago was saying it had nothing to apologise for.

A BBC correspondent in Baghdad, Humphrey Hawkesley, said Iraq's aim was to stop British and American planes from using Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as bases and to get some agreement on oil production.

President Saddam Hussein's government accuses the two Arab states of creating a glut by pumping too much oil and pushing prices down - the reason, it says, it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

UN sanctions

The Cairo meeting had been intended to forge a common Arab stand on the Iraq crisis.

Baghdad wanted full Arab backing in its confrontation with the West over disarmament, but correspondents say Arab states are reluctant to offer such political support to a regime they still consider a threat



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